Wreck and Order by Hannah Tennant-Moore

wreck and orderA boldly candid, raw portrait of a young woman’s search for meaning and purpose in an indifferent world

Decisively aimless, self-destructive, and impulsively in and out of love, Elsie is a young woman who feels stuck. She has a tumultuous relationship with an abusive boyfriend, a dead-end job at a newspaper, and a sharp intelligence that’s constantly at odds with her many bad decisions. When her initial attempts to improve her life go awry, Elsie decides that a dramatic change is the only solution.

An auto-didact who prefers the education of travel to college, Elsie uses an inheritance to support her as she travels to Paris and Sri Lanka, hoping to accumulate experiences, create connections, and discover a new way to live. Along the way, she meets men and women who challenge and provoke her towards the change she genuinely hopes to find. But in the end, she must still come face-to-face with herself.

Whole-hearted, fiercely honest and inexorably human, Wreck and Order is a stirring debut that, in mirroring one young woman’s dizzying quest for answers, illuminates the important questions that drive us all.*

Before I jump into my review of this book, I have to say that there should definitely be a trigger warning attached to it. If reading graphic descriptions of violent sex is going to upset you or make you uncomfortable, then this is not a book you should read because there are several such scenes.

Despite the slight discomfort of those scenes, I really enjoyed this book. It felt at times like I was reading a memoir because the protagonist feels very real in that she is extremely flawed, and because the descriptions of Sri Lanka really put you in each city Elsie travels to. The culture and lifestyle of the people there is beautifully captured, as is the discomfort felt by someone who was raised in an entirely different culture when they are first introduced to a whole other world.

Elsie mentions at one point that she needs to reconcile her ideals with her personality, and I thought that was a really poignant idea. She wants so badly to help the Sri Lankan girl she befriends, and she does make progress, but her personality ultimately gets in the way of that and causes her to become cold toward Suriya. Elsie is entitled, spoiled, masochistic, and disturbed but that is precisely why this book is so wonderful. She is human.

There are many different subjects covered in this book: Buddhism, the state of third world countries, the moral dilemmas tied to the torture of supposed terrorists, tensions between different cultures, marriage and commitment, and the desire to do good or effect change without having the means to do so.

If you can handle the few graphic scenes, then I highly recommend you read this book. Hannah Tennant-Moore creates extremely realistic characters, effortlessly puts the reader in all the different settings of the book, and writes about what I am sure many can relate to when she discusses the barrier one’s personality creates between thought and action. I’m excited to see what the author does next!

*I received a free advanced copy of this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review. Cover image and synopsis are from Amazon.com.


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